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New Hampshire Prepares for Presidential Primary


Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets audience members at a campaign stop in Peterborough, New Hampshire January 4, 2012, one day after winning the Iowa caucus.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets audience members at a campaign stop in Peterborough, New Hampshire January 4, 2012, one day after winning the Iowa caucus.

In less than a week, voters in the northeastern state of New Hampshire will cast ballots in the first U.S. presidential primary, following last Tuesday's Iowa caucuses. People going to the polls in New Hampshire are looking at very different issues in deciding who should be the Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in the November election.

New Hampshire is a northeastern state of postcard-perfect scenes like this. Time seems to slow in its tiny, scenic towns until presidential candidates rush into the state, once every four years. They bring along noisy cheering (or booing) crowds along with nasty campaign ads.

Republican and Democratic voters choose their nominees, state-by-state, in primary contests like New Hampshire's.

But voters in New Hampshire are better off, financially, than the rest of the country.

High priced items do well in the state's big cities.

A Lexus dealership in Manchester is moving into a new $7 million showroom. General Sales Manager Nigel Long says the last quarter earnings were fantastic.

"When people have money, people have money," he said.

But that's not what's motivating people who live far from city buildings. Here, New Hampshire's country roads lead to financial rough times that have soured many on this year's presidential primary.

Franny Longo shaves wood for the Peterboro Basket Company where she's worked for 25 years.

"I've been able to make ends meet. That's all I can say," she said. "Struggling, working hard to make ends meet."

The Peterboro Basket Company has been around for more than 150 years - a true "Made in America" company, with wood from New England Ash trees, medallions from Rhode Island and leather straps from Massachusetts. It's a successful business which grew 38 percent last year. But owner Joan Dodds will cast a vote for change in Tuesday's primary.

"I know the country's in trouble and we need to do something and not wait too much longer," she said.

New Hampshire's state motto is "live free or die." Residents are fiercely independent. But also, fiercely undecided when it comes to the primary.

Factory worker Matt Rocca knows how to finish off a bicycle basket. But he doesn't know who will get his vote.

"Not quite yet," he said. "I'm going to start looking later on."

Neil Levesque is a New Hampshire native who's worked on numerous campaigns. He now runs the Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

"New Hampshire voters will wait until the last minute before they are concrete about what they want to do and they will switch if the candidate makes a big mistake. They will switch," he said. "New Hampshire is also known for big upsets."

The big upset would be if Mitt Romney - the former governor of an adjacent state - were to lose. Polls show him in the lead at about 40 percent among Republican candidates. He's so confident that he campaigned Thursday in South Carolina, which holds its primary after New Hampshire.

But with the many undecided voters in this state, all the candidates will fight hard in the coming days, selling themselves to the residents who have money... and those who do not.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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